If you’ve ever kept tabs on your blog or web readership using an analytics tool, you likely know a key performance metric is “time on page,” a measure of how long the average reader spent on a particular piece of content.
Did they just skim it, read it or quickly click away? Read time or time-on-page is a good way to know if your readers are engaging with your content.
And though it’s a metric often associated with blogs and web pages, it’s just as valuable for other types of written content, namely, email. For internal communicators, knowing if and how long employees are reading an email can be the difference between knowing a message was received or ignored.
Here are seven ways internal communications professionals can keep those readership numbers high:
1. Write compelling content.
To put it simply, readers won’t keep something open if it isn’t worth reading. In a post on its blog, online advertising software firm WordStream makes the point that content should be three things: useful, entertaining and accessible. Make your content digestible (more on that in a minute), but don’t be afraid to write it in a relatable voice.
2. Design for different devices.
According to Litmus, a company that specializes in email previews, people’s email attention spans are actually growing. But communicators should still do all they can to gain and hold readers’ attention. Given the growth in email on mobile devices, one way to do that is using responsive design.
3. Use images, but not exclusively.
Content creators know good imagery and graphics is proven to draw eyeballs, but overloading an email with an image or using obvious stock imagery that doesn’t complement the content may hurt more than help. Word content should be text, and images should visually accentuate the story. According to Quicksprout, the most popular pages have an image for every 350 words or so.
4. Display quickly.
If readers see gray boxes or red x’s instead of images, it’s more likely they’ll click away before they read a word. Images are sometimes blocked from email, particularly when you are using external email marketing tools. Some mobile devices such as iPhones will only download 250KB of images automatically. For email to work effectively, the images need to display automatically and quickly. So it’s important to balance images with text and to size images down to screen pixel depths.
5. Break up your content.
Long paragraphs and monolithic walls of text are not inviting to someone opening an email. Email is for processing, and readers’ eyes need to be able to scan chunks of content. That requires effective use of white space to break up the text, not just paragraph breaks. Chloe Digital suggests using H2 and H3 subheadings, bullets, numbered lists, and bold text to add visual diversity.
6. Use the “inverted pyramid.”
Put the most important information or action request right in the headline and subhead. Don’t leave your readers frustrated because your email isn’t getting to the point. Torque magazine suggests using the content structure newspapers have employed for centuries, putting the most important information in the first few paragraphs, then adding increasing details of decreasing importance thereafter.
7. Check for clear, simple language.
Before you hit “send,” consider running the message through a readability checker to see if your content is easy to read or a bit of a slog. The easier it is to read—less jargon, fewer acroynms, less complex sentence structure and word choices, and the higher it scores on the Flesch Reading Ease scale—and the more likely it will be that your message is read and understood.
Learn more about how communicators are measuring their communications efforts by downloading PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.